Mountain High 

Nothing says wilderness like somebody’s cell phone belting out a ringtone version of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” on a two-mile high precipice just this side of the middle of nowhere.

At least, that might be what the folks charged with taking care of Yellowstone National Park were thinking when they invited a bunch of representatives from wireless communications companies for some closed-door meetings at which they all chummily figured out how to go about developing a comprehensive “Wireless Telecommunications Plan” for the Park. Not surprisingly, the companies, according to minutes obtained by the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, recommended adding more cell phone towers to the half-dozen already up and running in the Park. For more information about what you missed at the meeting, check out Feel free to spread the word.

Speaking of spreading the word, do your mom a favor and don’t call her until you get home from birding with the Five Valleys Audubon Society when they put a bead on migrating waterfowl and shorebirds during a half-day field trip to Smurfit-Stone Container on Sunday, May 14, because the carpool leaves from the UM Fieldhouse parking lot at 8 AM. Call 549-5632 to find out who has room for you.

Since we’re on the topic of driving, it’s worth mentioning the seasonal reopening of the National Bison Range, which is located just north of Missoula near the junction of highways 93 and 200 and sports a 19-mile, one-way gravel road allowing access to a landscape populated with all kinds of wildlife—big, shaggy bison included. A day pass costs $4, the 2006 season opens Saturday, May 13, and it’s a road trip that’s fun even with the car stereo off. Call 644-2211 with questions that flippant summary left out.

That’s flippant, not flipping. Flipping, and rolling back upright again, is one focus of The Best in the West kayak competition taking place south and west of the Bison Range when the whitewater contest returns for its seventh year at Alberton’s Triple Bridges on Saturday, May 13, promising freeride fun on the big water from 9 AM to 3 PM and plenty of spectator-friendly vantages from which to watch. If you’re interested in seeing how you stack up against the competition, register for Saturday’s play date from noon to 5 PM on Friday, May 12, at Brennan’s Wave. If you’d rather just watch others go with the flow, head right at the bottom of I-90’s Fish Creek Exit (#66) then left when the road Ts and you can’t miss it.

Unless you’re missing it on purpose, perhaps because you’ve made a prior commitment to wheeled recreation. Like, for instance, the type that takes place during Bike for Shelter, a fund-raising festival for Watson Children’s Shelter taking place at Fort Missoula from 8 AM to 2 PM on Saturday, May 13. In addition to 50-mile Frenchtown and 20-mile Kona Ranch rides, the day promises kid-friendly cycling events like a Bike Rodeo and a two-mile fun ride around the Fort that’s sure to result in heavy midafternoon napping.

Also for the bikers are two trips with Missoulians on Bicycles planned for this weekend. On Saturday, May 13, there’s a 50-mile ride along Blue Mountain Road to Big Flat and then through to Huson departing from Rosauer’s at 9 AM. Call 728-7994. If you feel like climbing instead, MOB has got a 90-mile ride up to Lolo Pass planned for Sunday, May 14. Call 542-2759.

This week REI has two events they want you to know about. For those without the slightest idea of how to get into the backcountry, REI offers a Backpacking 101 clinic at 7 PM on Thursday, May 18, at their 2230 N. Reserve St. location. If you’ve got a little more experience or just a hankering for eating like an astronaut, check out the free samples of trail food that REI will be dishing out in the store from 11:30 AM to 2 PM on Saturday, May 13.

If Backpacking 101 sounds like it might be the thing for you, this next trip probably isn’t. If, however, you rolled your eyes at the thought of anyone teaching you anything about the outdoors, you’ve probably got the experience, though hardly the right attitude, for the New Rocky Mountaineers’ trip to East St. Mary’s Peak on Sunday, May 14. Call 549-4769 to get in on 4,500 feet of vertical ascent and traverses of knife-edge blown-snow ridges.

Maybe Saturday, May 13, is a better day for you to get up something. If so, consider heading for the Selway-Bitterroot with the Rocky Mountaineers, who plan to climb “something over 8,500 feet, depending on weather and conditions.” Maybe East St. Mary’s Peak even. Call 721-3790 to offer your input. On the other hand, a leisurely walk up the Walman Trail in the upper Rattlesnake Recreation Area might suit your Saturday just fine. If so, the Rocky Mountaineers sponsor just such a trip, and on Saturday, May 13, nonetheless. Call 542-7372 for more.

Finally, find out what’s up with your competition for space in the great outdoors when the Endangered Species Coalition sponsors a mini film festival at the Crystal Theatre at 7:30 PM on Thursday, May 11, aka Endangered Species Day. They’ll be screening three films—Incredible Journey of the Greenback Cutthroat, The Story of the California Condor and Endangered—and talking about one of them (the second one) with local filmmaker Rob Whitehair.

Before I go, you get some homework. This week’s issue has some coverage of public lands issues impacting outdoor recreation, and so now that you’ve got your Mountain High, your assignment is to flip to Jessie McQuillan’s “Enviro vs. Enviro” and John S. Adams’ “Burns’ Dam Plan” and sober up a little.

Then send 250 words on what you think.

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